If the San Diego Chargers expect to compete in the AFC West Division in 2013, their offense needs to be better than the unit that finished 24th in passing and 27th in rushing last season. New head coach Mike McCoy is known for being able to orchestrate his offense around the talent he has, but with starting quarterback Phillip Rivers showing signs of decline in recent years, there will be a lot of pressure on San Diego’s skill players to help Rivers regain the form he had a few years ago. However, heading into the season there is a lot of uncertainty as to who the Chargers will be able to rely on to be their playmakers.
Right now, Malcolm Floyd and Danario Alexander are penciled in as the starting wide receivers after being San Diego’s two leading receivers last season, but obviously those two didn’t do enough last season to help the Chargers' passing game. Alexander has the talent to build off of his 37 catches last season and put up much better numbers this year, but Floyd has a history of underperforming based on his size and speed, which means the Chargers will need other receivers to step up.
Robert Meachem was a huge disappointment last season, and the Chargers shouldn’t expect too much out of him this season, although it would give San Diego a big boost if he could have a bounce-back year. While Meachem enters the season with low expectations, the Chargers are interested in seeing what Vincent Brown and rookie Keenan Allen are capable of contributing. San Diego was hopeful that Brown would be able to break out last year in his second NFL season, but a broken ankle kept him on the sidelines all season. Now that he’s healthy, Brown may be able to emerge as a reliable target due to his excellent route-running ability. As for Allen, the Chargers drafted him expecting him to challenge for a starting spot right away, and they’d be pleased if he could earn significant playing time and take snaps away from Floyd.
The wildcard of the wide receiver group could by Eddie Royal, who excelled early in his career with the Denver Broncos, and could make an impact as the third or fourth wide receiver on the Charger’s roster if they can find more reliable targets on the outside. San Diego might also have a plan for back up running back Danny Woodhead, who was used in a variety of ways for the New England Patriots throughout his career, and could be an interesting chess piece for McCoy to utilize.
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There are a lot of complications and uncertainties for San Diego at the wide receiver at the wide receiver position, but things should be a little more settled at tight end with ageless veteran Antonio Gates. While Gates is far from the player he used to be, until Rivers has some more trustworthy wide receivers, he’ll continue to look to Gates, who should be able to catch 40 to 50 passes this season and get in the end zone at least half a dozen times. San Diego will also look to second-year tight end Ladarius Green to play a bigger role and take some pressure off Gates.
The Chargers didn’t do much to improve their lackluster running game in the offseason, which means all the pressure is on Rivers and the passing attack to carry the offense. Unless McCoy can get Rivers back to the form he had a few years ago, it will be up to San Diego’s receivers to step up their game. The Chargers have a lot of options in the passing game, and a few of them are actually quite promising, but heading into the season they are still searching for playmakers, and if they don’t find any, their 2013 season could look a lot like their 2012 season, if not worse.